Enlisting feathered friends to figh… – Information Centre – Research & Innovation

Unlawful fishing destroys marine habitats and threatens species residing at sea. An EU-funded undertaking is helping authorities to crack down on these functions by building the world’s 1st seabird ocean-surveillance technique.


© Weimerskirch, 2016

The world’s oceans protect a lot more than 350 million square kilometres of the earth’s floor. In their most remote spots lurk an unfamiliar number of ‘dark vessels’ – fishing boats that have turned off their transponders so that they can carry out unlawful fishing undetected.

This apply is a key menace to the marine ecosystem. Unlawful fisheries deplete fish shares, dramatically affecting regional economies and marine habitats. Unregulated boats usually use unlawful prolonged-line fishing procedures which endanger dolphins, seabirds and other animals that become entangled in the lines.

Authorities have struggled to control unlawful fishing simply because it is challenging to detect boats running without permission. To meet this challenge, researchers in the EU’s OCEAN SENTINEL undertaking, funded by the European Study Council, have made the world’s 1st ocean-surveillance technique by enlisting the aid of an unlikely ally: the albatross.

When albatrosses research for foods, they embark on foraging journeys that can very last up to 15 days and protect thousands of miles. By correctly building a details-logger small adequate to be attached to the birds, the undertaking team was equipped to change these journeys into unlawful fishing patrols. Whilst the albatrosses foraged for foods, their 10-cm prolonged details-loggers simultaneously scanned the ocean, using radar detection to identify boats and transmit their area back to analysts in genuine-time.

‘A technique using animals as surveillance at sea has under no circumstances been produced in advance of but we have been equipped to use the birds to find and right away notify authorities about the area of vessels, and to distinguish amongst lawful and unlawful fishing boats,’ states principal investigator Henri Weimerskirch of the French Countrywide Centre for Scientific Study.

‘We were being very pleased we could do the job with the albatross simply because they are the household of birds most threatened by unlawful fishing,’ he adds. The curious birds can become caught in unlawful lines when they swoop down to investigate the fishing boats and their baits.

Surveillance for data

Through the undertaking, Weimerskirch and his colleagues visited albatross breeding grounds on French island territories in the Southern Indian Ocean. Listed here, they attached details-loggers to 169 albatrosses to track the birds as they flew out to sea to find foods.

As the albatross foraged, they recorded radar blips from 353 vessels. Nevertheless, only 253 of the boats were being broadcasting their identity, placement and pace to the pertinent authority, primary the team to conclude that the remaining one hundred ships (37 %) were being a mix of unlawful and unreported vessels.

‘This is the 1st time the extent of unlawful and unreported fisheries has been approximated by an independent process,’ states Weimerskirch. ‘This data is important for the administration of marine methods and the technological know-how we made is presently staying made use of by the authorities to increase administration in these huge, challenging to take care of areas.’

An military of animals

The project’s results has encouraged other countries, including New Zealand and South Georgia – a Uk territory – to use OCEAN SENTINEL details-loggers to place unlawful fishing in their very own waters. South Africa and Hawaii are also looking at deploying the technological know-how in the around long term.

Scientists are also doing the job to adapt the details-logger so that it can be attached to other animals, this sort of as sea turtles, which are also under menace from unlawful prolonged-line fishing.

As animals are turned into undercover surveillance programs developed to place unlawful boats, they are equipping people with the know-how they require to beat this dilemma properly. ‘I hope our technological know-how, along with other efforts, spells the commencing of the close for these unlawful vessels,’ concludes Weimerskirch.